City Hangout – Sun Watching, Hailey Road
Winter-time magic realism.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Human lives are crammed with clichés, mainly because they serve some useful purpose… don’t they? Clichés may point to something that’s important. And also, point to a truism such as: very exceptional beauty can so easily be discovered in the most unexpected of places.
Take, for instance, the Hailey Lane in central Delhi. It is known for its ancient stone step-well. Some of you may also be familiar with its dhobhi ghat. But the most soulful aspect of this quiet alley is something more special. It can be seen and felt but not touched. It emerges after the washer men are done with their morning’s work.
Dozens of white bedsheets from a nearby hotel are quickly drying in late morning. A gentle breeze beckons them to tremble, even as the wan winter sun performs a luminous wonder: hanging on a series of crudely fixed wooden poles, these sheets are pulsating with moving patterns of light, crisscrossed by shadows of leaves. The sunspots dance over the sheets like water ripples that spread across a pond. This is a sight whose magic cannot be captured by the best phone camera and it is just not to be missed.
It’s hardly a secret that the ever-present sun in Delhi rarely shares pleasing qualities. Normally, it only offers oppressive heat balefully blended with sooty smog. But come winter, and the ‘dhoop’ comes out with a beautiful show, especially now when our city is reportedly even colder than London and Nainital.
Now the dhobi guys are setting out some coloured fabrics to dry. Well and good. But the solar show only works on white sheets.
To watch the sunlight this way is like being in an ultra-polluted futuristic world, where people would actually enter a cinema hall to see old footage of how sun rays used to be.
Make a mental note to turn up on the next sunny day to take it all in.
Sunshine as slow-motion artwork